One of these things is an imaginary (but certainly money-losing) idea from a larger-than-life character who appears to live in an alternate fictional universe… the other is The Simpsons’ take on ‘The Monorail’.
The Springfield Monorail
The Elon Musk Hyperloop
So What is Hyperloop Anyway?
Short of figuring out real teleportation, which would of course be awesome (someone please do this), the only option for super fast travel is to build a tube over or under the ground that contains a special environment. This is where things get tricky.
At one extreme of the potential solutions is some enlarged version of the old pneumatic tubes used to send mail and packages within and between buildings. You could, in principle, use very powerful fans to push air at high speed through a tube and propel people-sized pods all the way from LA to San Francisco. However, the friction of a 350 mile long column of air moving at anywhere near sonic velocity against the inside of the tube is so stupendously high that this is impossible for all practical purposes.
Another extreme is the approach, advocated by Rand and ET3, of drawing a hard or near hard vacuum in the tube and then using an electromagnetic suspension. The problem with this approach is that it is incredibly hard to maintain a near vacuum in a room, let alone 700 miles (round trip) of large tube with dozens of station gateways and thousands of pods entering and exiting every day. All it takes is one leaky seal or a small crack somewhere in the hundreds of miles of tube and the whole system stops working.
However, a low pressure (vs. almost no pressure) system set to a level where standard commercial pumps could easily overcome an air leak and the transport pods could handle variable air density would be inherently robust. Unfortunately, this means that there is a non-trivial amount of air in the tube and leads us straight into another problem.
Cost? Don’t worry about it… $7.5 billion – that’s just 3 days of Fed QE!! let’s do it…
A high speed transportation system known as Hyperloop has been developed in this document. The work has detailed two version of the Hyperloop: a passenger only version and a passenger plus vehicle version. Hyperloop could transport people, vehicles, and freight between Los Angeles and San Francisco in 35 minutes.
Transporting 7.4 million people each way and amortizing the cost of $6 billion over 20 years gives a ticket price of $20 for a one-way trip for the passenger version of Hyperloop.
Full report here: